CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A community leader on Charleston’s West Side says recent violence in his community will not mar the many positive things that are happening there. “There’s still great things happening on the West Side of Charleston,” said the Rev. Matthew Watts on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
As he has for the past seven years, Watts attended a Tuesday morning meeting with more than a dozen other West Side community leaders focused on ways to revitalize the area that’s home to a large portion of the Capitol City’s population.
“The commitment here has never been greater,” said Watts. “The West Side revival will be the template of how to revitalize and transform troubled communities all over West Virginia.”
This week’s meeting came after two possible gang-related shootings in the past week, one of which lead to the death of Tymel McKinney, 18, who was killed in a reported gang hit while sitting on his front porch on Sixth Street. Three people have been charged in connection with McKinney’s murder. One of them, Darrell “DJ” Carter, 18, is also accused of offering $15,000 for a hit on Lt. Steve Cooper, Chief of Detectives for the Charleston Police Department.
Watts, though, said gang activity, tied to illegal drugs, is not just a problem for Charleston. “I think that law enforcement will tell you that in almost all of our border cities — whether it’s Wheeling, whether it’s Martinsburg, Huntington, Charleston and even Beckley — there’s been some connection with out-of-state gangs involved in drug trafficking.”
He said drugs are brought into West Virginia because there’s a market. “The demand for illegal drugs and the demand for illegally sold prescription drugs is a major cause that attracts the negative element. We have to accept that as a reality and as a fact and so, anyone that’s involved in the use of illegal drugs, possessing or selling, are part of the problem.”
Watts said the community, as a whole, is working to send a message against gangs, drugs and illegal activity and, on Wednesday night, many in the Charleston community will come together to do so.
“It’s a show of solidarity, the east and the west and the downtown, coming together and saying, ‘Not in our town,’” said Watts. “Our solidarity has never been stronger than what it is now.”
On the West Side, residents will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Rev. Watts’ Grace Bible Church. On the East End, residents will meet at 5 p.m. at First Baptist Church. Those from all parts of Charleston will then march to Haddad Riverfront Park for a 6 p.m. rally against violence. McKinney’s mother will reportedly be part of the event.